NY Jets: Top 3 realistic options in free agency

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan before a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan before a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan before a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Jets will be making many moves to add more spending power to their salary cap situation. It won’t be like last offseason but they will make some smart acquisitions.

So far this offseason, general manager Mike Maccagnan came out and said retaining Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Ryan Fitzpatrick remains the team’s top priority this offseason. Unfortunately, this task will be very tough considering the financial situation and the price tags of those three players. The release of Antonio Cromartie did save $8 million, but more cuts will have to be made in order for the Jets to continue adding desperately needed cap space.

Guys expected to be sent packing are Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland and possibly even Breno Giacomini. Kerley hasn’t been utilized outside of punt returns, Cumberland has proved to be a poor fit in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s scheme and Giacomini has underachieved as the starting right tackle the past two seasons.

If Maccagnan chooses to part ways with all three, New York would save close to $7 million, per Over The Cap. Potential restructured contracts of D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold could be of great help as well. If the Jets were to cut and restructure all of those players, they could actually put themselves over $35 million in cap room.

Once the team makes all of their expected moves (tagging Wilkerson, re-signing Harrison, Fitzpatrick and Erin Henderson), only a few million will be left over for addressing needs. Main positions of need will include; running back, outside linebacker and also right tackle whether Giacomini stays or goes.

New York’s offensive line is on the older side, so you could definitely expect them to address right tackle in the 2016 NFL Draft opposed to free agency. Money will be tight, therefore bigger named running backs and pass rushers will be off the Jets’ radar.

Here are the top three most realistic options for Gang Green during the free agency period.

Next: 3. A talented running back

Dec 6, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) runs the ball while defended by San Diego Chargers linebacker Kyle Emanuel (51) during the second half of the game at Qualcomm Stadium. Denver won 17-3. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

3. Ronnie Hillman

According to multiple reports, the Jets are expected to let Chris Ivory walk. Luckily for them, the free agency pool has plenty of running backs to offer. Doug Martin, Matt Forte, Lamar Miller and Alfred Morris highlight the long list, although New York won’t truly have a chance at any of those four.

This is when a guy like Ronnie Hillman comes into play. The Super Bowl 50 champion split carries for a majority of the season with C.J. Anderson and he may be looking to be the featured back on another roster.

He finished the regular season with 863 yards and seven touchdowns while receiving for an additional 111 yards on 24 catches. A 4.2 yards per clip is fairly impressive as well, considering Denver’s offensive line struggles in the beginning of the year.

If the Jets are looking for a back who could play at least 60% of their snaps and produce even behind a mediocre line, then Hillman is who they’re looking for. The 24-year-old’s market value should end up being at around $2-2.5 million per year which New York can afford, so it can certainly happen if Maccagnan pulls the trigger.

Next: 2. A serviceable tight end

Sep 13, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen (83) runs after a catch and is tackled by Buffalo Bills strong safety Bacarri Rambo (30) during the first quarter at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

2. Dwayne Allen

Despite Gailey’s scheme which rarely uses the tight end, ESPN’s Rich Cimini expects Gang Green to address that position these next two months. Since the team will probably not spend big money on a Gary Barnidge or Ladarius Green, a guy like Dwayne Allen makes a lot of sense.

The Colts essentially have a committee of tight ends they like to use, but the Clemson product doesn’t receive as much snaps as Coby Fleener and sometimes even Jack Doyle. With that being said, it’d be surprising if Indianapolis retained him.

Allen is a good candidate to play the role that Cumberland failed to play last season. As sad as it is, Kellen Davis tended to show up in the red zone more than Cumberland did, so a player like Allen who thrives inside the 20 could keep New York’s offense from stalling.

His market value has been all over the place, but $1-1.5 million seems reasonable for the 26-year-old looking to have a bounce back year. If Maccagnan decides to make the move, it won’t be too pricy and the red zone offense will improve.

Next: 1. An outside linebacker worth acquiring

Nov 22, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw (91) celebrates in the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

1. Courtney Upshaw

There’s no question that the Jets have needed an outside linebacker for quite some time now. Calvin Pace is on his way out the door while Lorenzo Mauldin and Trevor Reilly seem too young to start alongside each other.

Courtney Upshaw is a player who New York could scoop up and insert into their system immediately. The Alabama product has struggled in the Ravens’ defense at getting after the quarterback totaling a mere five sacks, but he deserves another crack simply because of his production otherwise.

More jets: NY Jets 2015 Spotlight: Bilal Powell

In four seasons, Upshaw has 183 tackles and four forced fumbles. In a 3-4 defense, you normally see the inside linebackers racking up the tackles and big hits, although not in this case.

Baltimore will be looking to rebuild their defense after their disastrous 2015-16 campaign making Upshaw’s chances to hit the market very probable. A two or three-year deal worth about $8 million seems reasonable since he’s disappointed in the pass rushing department thus far, so this is a gamble the Jets can without a doubt take.